Phillip Pines, Great Dane’s former president and chief operating officer, passed away Monday night in a plane crash near Racine, Wisconsin. He was 76.

“Phill’s contributions to the success of Great Dane were many, including his unrelenting focus and drive to grow the company and solidify its preeminent position in our industry,” said William “Bill” Crown, president and chief executive officer of Great Dane Limited Partnership. “He left an indelible mark on our company, successfully ingraining into the organization a culture of strength and excellence. I speak for our board of directors and employees in saying we are deeply saddened by his passing. Phill will be truly missed, and our deepest sympathies go out to his wife, Joan, and the Pines family.”

According to journaltimes.com , Pines was piloting a single-engine TBM 700 airplane that crashed about 6:34 p.m. Pines, of Highland Park, Ill., was the sole occupant, according to Mount Pleasant police. Pines was pronounced dead at the scene Monday night.

The website quoted police as saying Pines acted heroicly by crashing in an open field, avoiding several populated subdivisions nearby.

"The plane actually impacted right adjacent to the road (Spring Street)," said John Brannen, senior air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Pines, who had been flying south from Central Wisconsin Airport in Wausau and was headed to Waukegan, Ill., reported that he was losing altitude shortly before the crash.

Pines began his career in the trailer industry in 1958 working alongside his father, Leo Pines, at their Monon Trailer dealership. There, he and his father began refurbishing used trailers and soon after started their own trailer company, Pines Trailer Corporation in 1965.

Pines led his family-owned business, Pines Trailer Corporation, for 25 years before forming a Partnership with the Crown Family in 1988. In January 1997, the Partnership acquired Great Dane Trailers, and he assumed the role of President and COO of Great Dane Limited Partnership. Pines retired at the end of 2010.